A new benefit for widows and widowers began in April. Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) replaces bereavement payment and bereavement and widowed parent’s allowances. The new system only applies to deaths from 6 April 2017. Anyone already on one of the old benefits will keep it as long as the conditions are met.
The new payment is in two parts – a lump sum and then a monthly payment for the next 18 months. The amounts paid depend on whether the bereaved person has dependent children or not.
These amounts are much lower for most spouses or civil partners than was paid for deaths before 6 April. They got a tax-free £2,000 payment and a taxable weekly allowance of up to £112.55 – which could last for up to 20 years.
A small number will be better off. Those who are widowed under the age of 45 without children got nothing under the old system, but will get the new payments. In the long term, the change will save the government £100 million a year.
The monthly payments will stop after 18 months – or before if the widow reaches state pension age or the youngest child leaves full-time education or reaches 20. It does not stop if she remarries.
BSP is not paid to the bereaved who were just living together with their partners, even those with children. It is not taxable and doesn’t affect means-tested benefits for the first year. It is not clear if it will be raised with inflation in future years.
To qualify for the payment, the deceased must normally have paid the equivalent of 25 weeks’ National Insurance contributions within one tax year. Almost all adults will fulfil that condition.
Claim within three months of the death or you may get less. For more information, call 0345 608 8601 or go to gov.uk and search for Bereavement Support Payment.
PROBATE FEES UPDATE
Since my column of 15 April, the Government has scrapped its plan to charge probate fees in England and Wales of up to £20,000, instead of the present flat rate of £155 or £215. Objections from MPs and peers meant it couldn’t force it through once the general election had been called. It may, of course, be revived later.